Tieryas Reviews Western Solstice by Leonore Wilson, Poet Laureate of Napa Valley


I met Leonore Wilson because we were published in the Prism Review together and I was immediately drawn to her poetry. There was a raw intensity in them intermixed with beautiful prose that caught my attention and gripped me. This wasn’t just the regular old “whimsical poetry” with pretty phrases, but words that told a gripping story, moving and haunting me, seizing my attention and demanding notice. When I found out she released a full book of poetry, Western Solstice, I knew I had to read it. Here’s a brief bio from the publisher’s page:

Leonore Wilson has taught at var­ious uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges in the San Francisco Bay Area. She con­tinues to live on her family cattle ranch in Napa, California. She has won fel­low­ships to the University of Utah and Villa Montalvo Center for the Arts. Her work has been in such mag­a­zines as Quarterly West, Madison Review, Third Coast, Poets Against the War, Nimble Spirit, and Trivia: Voices of Feminism. She is the author of Western Solstice. She is the mother of three sons.

I’ve re-read Western Solstice multiple times and have enjoyed it more with each reading. Themes range from violence to spirituality to nature to love- pretty much everything that is important. What grabs me each time is how powerfully she weaves together a story full of vivid imagery that is almost brutishly visceral in its authenticity. It’s almost like she has a sensation recorder that recreates the sights, the smells, the sounds, the touch, and the feel as in “The Gutted Buck.”

“Someone shot this buck and snatched up its torso, leaving only a head with dark reddish eyes, ears wide as mouths, | and those holes exposed on a skull cap- white blue caves where the wasps weave in and out | suck up the cranium’s juices, buzzing like boat traffic that tears to the lake in late July; | someone | leaving no blood, no entrails, no organs-”

The solstice used to mark many of the ancient ceremonies and traditions of cultures because it signified such an important part of their lives. Relationships, both of family and friends, were dependent on these cycles that signified survival. Part of the ceremony involved story-telling, painting messages through symbols and parables as in “Their Genesis”:

“Fog swaddles the pastures, a white film, slub silk, like the creamy net vernix that once covered my sons as I cover them now, mature men who sleep with their wet jaggy boughs have bled to ash; how I want them to stay.”

There’s so much incredible poetry in the book, it’s hard just to pick out a few. Let me cherry-pick some favorite lines:

“Like a warning, a reporof of your sorrow, the buttoned up flowers of night open | and the suppressed cry of the dove shines -”

“There is no word for enigma now since the sweetmeat of the holy is in the ‘self,’ in the neurons and electrons; he’s been crouching there all along.”

“black swerve mark, trail across an open field, where a body landed, flung like an egg, a spinning plate, here the tragic irony, fate on ancestral land, where seeds of wild grasses, burrs of thistles, foxtails umbels, awns, hooks to pant legs and burrow into dog paws.”

“What has the most symmetry of all, the physicists say, is nothing.”

It’s a beautiful book that deserves reading. Check out the site below for more information about both Leonore Wilson and her book, Western Solstice.



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